Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Chilean mining industry has regained more than half of the jobs lost in the recent recession and is anticipating further growth, spurred in large part by a growing value for copper, according to the latest numbers from the Minister of Mining.

The price of copper has risen steadily since crashing in mid-January 2009, settling at roughly US$2.54 per pound on Monday, almost a 15 percent increase in just the last two weeks, though it has fallen to roughly US$2.45 since then.

Twelve thousand jobs had disappeared in the mining sector at the economy’s lowest point, but over 7,000 of those have returned, said the Ministry.

Compañía Minera Doña Inés de Collahuasi, a major mining company and operator of the second largest copper mine in Chile, has begun the initial stages for environmental approval for an expansion of their processing plant. They seek to raise their refined copper production to 600,000 tons by 2010 and reach a million tons by 2015. The company produced 464,000 tons in 2008.

Collahuasi, which is owned by the London-based Anglo American plc, and the Zug, Switzerland-based Xstrata, as well as a Japanese conglomerate, will be pursuing their project with an investment of US$750 million, designed to increase the mine’s capacity to transport the material by up to 170,000 tons per day.

These projects, Collahuasi executives say, will create 2,500 temporary jobs for 22 months and 300 permanent positions. The mining industry represents roughly 1.5 percent of the country’s labor force.

Collahuasi currently sits third in Chilean copper exports, behind international BHP Billiton’s Escondida mine, the largest single copper mine in the world, and the state-run CODELCO, which operates several mines throughout the country and is the largest single exporter in the world.


By Daniel Zarchy (

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